Being Productive vs Being Busy

In a world where we are constantly “connected” and always have something to do, we can very easily confuse being productive vs being busy. Like most vices, short term impacts are often never felt and we only get to see how far behind we are on our ‘actual’ tasks after a couple of weeks or sometimes even months. This is a problem faced by almost everyone at some point in life. In fact, statistics show that more than 77% of people are disengaged with the work they do every day. I received a piece of advice that has helped me greatly in overcoming this problem, it was, to systematically break down my goals into achievable chunks. Listed below are some steps to get started:

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Overcoming the Execution Gap

With the new year in full swing, many of us may have set goals towards what we aspire to achieve in 2013. However, there is a big difference between setting goals and achieving them. Essentially the execution gap in the middle is where many fall. In 2013 you may want to become healthier, boost your business forward or write the book that you have always wanted to. These are good goals to work towards but in order to be truly committed about this we need to over come the execution gap.

Here are three steps to get you started:

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Is Making Money the Ultimate Validation?

Recently I had an interesting conversation with someone who took the stance that, making money was the only sign that you are creating any value in the world. From his perspective making something that had perceived monetary value meant that you had created something worth while. On a very superficial level, I believe this argument has some basis, however, it has some very serious flaws. While I agree that making money does prove that your work has some value and the amounts of monetary exchange is an indicator of this, I do believe that this line of thought is extremely myopic and is a blinkered reflection of the workings in the industrial era where you did a certain job solely for and in exchange for compensation.

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Looking Back at 2012

As I sit down to write this post I really can’t believe that 2012 is over. These last couple of years, time seems to be accelerating at a quantum pace where it is becoming difficult to keep track of all the things which again seem to be taking place almost all at once! I remember quite vividly this year starting off with us closing one of our biggest deals with British American Tobacco, we have been fortunate to have just built our pace from there. For this review I am going to take a different approach and document all that went well and the areas which need improvement in the coming year.

The Things That Worked out Well:

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Building an Advisory Board

Since becoming part of the Founder Institute I have been really fortunate to have met and interacted with some of the best, smartest and knowledgable entrepreneurs I have ever had the good fortune to meet. We have been advised to put together a formal advisory board to assist us in our journey to reach product/market fit. I have always been a big fan of having mentors, mentors are vital to give advice and help keep your business from making expensive and avoidable mistakes. Building an advisory board however, needs to be given a lot of thought and is not another line item on your to-do list. Some advice I am following and steps I am taking are:

1. Recruit advisors with specific objectives: You need to research and spend a considerable amount of time up front to determine critical objectives that need achieving early in your venture. To accelerate reaching these milestones, search for advisors who have specific domain knowledge in specific areas and who will act as catalysts. This provides the advisor with a specific area to concentrate on and will be mutually beneficial.

2. Compensation: Advisors are usually given anywhere between 0.25% to 5% equity stakes depending on their involvement and stature. On the flip side, some advisors may not be interested in equity and a prior agreement about a small settlement in cash or a deferred payment plan can be established. Some advisors do not expect anything and for such a situation, you should be the one picking up the cheque during meals and showing gestures of gratitude for the time the advisor spends with you.

3. Small Groups: It is best to keep your roster of advisors limited to a group of 3. There are several reasons for this; for example, when organizing a communal meeting it is usually challenging to manage a larger size group due to calendar conflicts etc. Too many advisors could result in “too much advice” which could in turn paralyze you, instead of helping you to move forward.

4. Legal Agreements: When taking someone on as a formal advisor, it is best to get your law firm to draft an agreement. It is suggested that formal advisory role positions be kept to a maximum of 2 years, after which they could be renewed. This gives the entrepreneur a way out if things are not working well. If equity is involved, be sure to vest it over the period of the agreement and lastly, if required, get the advisor to sign an NDA if you think he/she may be interacting with other companies where there might be a conflict of interest.

Will keep everyone updated on how I go about structuring this process, will also post the specifics when completed.

Clearly Define Success

It is the first week of January. It is a time when we all have this blank slate in front of us, which is 2011. Our actions in this first month will however, have a major impact on what we end up achieving this year. I believe that New year resolutions are personal promises, made to ourselves, and can have long term benefits. During this period I also write down very specific goals of what success should look like this year in the businesses that I run.

We all hope to double our revenue growth, increase profit margins or get outside investment to accelerate our growth path. However, what you need to do is be realistic about where you are and what you can actually achieve this year. This can only happen by taking stock of where you are first. How did you do in 2010? What were your sales figures? What are your profit margins at? How many customers did you bring on and how many did you lose? Depending on your business, take key metrics and set specific and realistic goals that you will work towards in 2011.

Create a roadmap for 2011, this will help towards achieving a much higher probability of making meaningful strides towards growing your business to where you want it to go. This exercise beats pulling random numbers and lofty goals without taking into account whether they are achievable or not. Wishing all my readers the best of success in the new year!

Entrepreneurship and Time

time-management

It has been an absolutely crazy first quarter. With an unending series of ups and downs, my days have been merging one into another at break neck speed. Whilst reviewing my blog history I discovered that a post such as this is repeated at least once a year when I cannot believe how quickly time is flying by. I am so very grateful for all the opportunities that have come my way and all the individuals who have supported me during this time to make it all a reality. Entrepreneurship is definitely not the easiest path to choose in life but it certainly brings in an enormous amount of satisfaction on a daily basis. Everything in life is a direct result of the actions we take on a daily basis. If we do not like what is happening around us, then the only person to blame is ourself.

This probably explains why so many entrepreneurs who have this very strong inherent competitive streak operate the way they do. We treat almost everything as a race , this is not necessarily a healthy streak, but,  it is what makes us tick and work 20 hours a day for months at a stretch. It is this very streak that very often makes us lose all  track of time and things that are happening all around us. I was asked a question today,  it was , once I achieve certain milestones or goals I have set for myself, what would I do next?  My almost immediate and spontaneous reaction was that I really would not want to do anything other than what I do today! Working with startups and small businesses, helping them grow from the ground up and often creating a laudable entity provides an immense sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

I digress. Apologies for not being able to update the blog regularly. I should be returning to a normal posting schedule in May and will be introducing many of the projects that I am currently working on to get your feedback and suggestions. I want to thank all my loyal readers  and hope to connect personally with a lot more of you and, be of assistance or find ways to work together.

p.s I am also looking for entrepreneurs who want to guest post on this blog. Please do get in touch with me at blog (at) usmansheikh.com if you are interested. Thank you!